Miss Earth 2018 candidates accuse sponsor of sexual harassment

Rappler.com
On Instagram, Canada’s Jaime VandenBerg, England’s Abbey-Anne Gyles-Brown, and Guam's Emma Mae Sheedy claim that a sponsor repeatedly asked them for sexual favors

COMING FORWARD. Miss Earth Canada, Miss Earth England, and Miss Earth Guam have opened up about their sexual harassment experiences during the pageant. Photos from Jaime VandenBerg, Abbey-Anne Gyles-Brown, and Emma Mae Sheedy's Instagram

MANILA, Philippines – Miss Earth Canada Jaime VandenBerg, Miss Earth England Abbey-Anne Gyles-Brown, and Miss Earth Guam Emma Mae Sheedy came forward with claims of sexual harassment by a pageant sponsor during the pageant’s run in the Philippines, which ended with a coronation night on November 4.

 

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I left to compete at an international pageant in the Philippines about a month ago. I was so excited because I had been to the Philippines before and loved the country and the people; however, the experience with the pageant was not what I had expected. I left Miss Earth because I did not feel safe under their care. The second day of the pageant I felt uncomfortable because a sponsor from the first night was given my phone number, without my consent, and was calling me asking for my hotel and room number. I gave my phone to a team manager so that she could resolve the issue, but it did not work. He showed up to almost all of my events telling me he could take care of my needs and asked for sexual favours in exchange to get me further in the pageant. I was disgusted. He showed up to a hotel some girls were staying at and when I ran into him he continued to ask for my room number. I was lucky I wasn’t staying at that hotel. After so many strange calls, I recognized his phone number and was able to block it. At an event at the Manila Yacht Club he took all of the delegates in my group to his yacht and had some girls take sultry photos. Again, I was disgusted. Later in the pageant we had another sponsor event at the Manila Yacht Club and he was telling girls he could take them to Boracay, as long as we didn’t tell any one. A group of us left to sit out side as we did not feel comfortable. He followed us outside and was upset we were not dancing with him. The team mangers laughed and told us to be nice. Eventually we were allowed to go and sit on the bus because we refused to go back to his yacht. Six girls and myself left because we felt unsafe at that event. I asked many times why more girls weren’t given the option to leave but, was never given an answer. That night a few of us were given the opportunity to bring our concerns to Miss Lorraine, the woman in charge of the pageant. I went through almost two weeks of sexual harassment before I anything was done about it. I was told he would not be around any more, but I had advised Lorraine of several other issues that were not resolved. Miss Peachy, another employee of the pageant, spoke with me at an event about…

A post shared by Jaime VandenBerg (@missjaimeyvonne) on

 

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My personal encounter @missearth. • It’s time to speak up about my personal experience. I have been in close contact with my national director and all incidents have been noted. I have worked very hard for my title of Miss Earth England and as I have previously mentioned I took 4 years to get to the top and win my place at the Internationals. I was elated to finally represent England over in the beautiful Philippines. My trip was a rollercoaster of emotions, stress and endurance and I did not leave the pageant as I was not going to miss out on the experience. I have many beautiful memories of my time here in the Philippines and many wonderful days. I met happy Filipinos who showed me such kindness and respect. I enjoyed 50% of my trip but the other 50% was over shadowed by feeling exploited, vulnerable, unnerved & sexually harassed as I was approached by a sponsor on many occasions who asked for sexual favours in exchange for the Crown. This happened at Manila Yacht Club on a sponsored evening meal away from the team managers behind closed doors. The sponsor also tried to find out what hotel and room I was staying in. Myself and Canada approached Team Managers to express our disgust only to be laughed at. Another official attendee of the night told me not to cry as I would ruin my makeup! There was no respect or compassion shown to myself or Jaimie. I felt traumatised by this experience and had many sleepless nights. I was not sure who had my personal details including my mob number and hotel room. It was not only myself and Canada who were approached on this night but other delegates who I believe are going to come forward and tell their side of the story. I approached Lorraine Schuck who is the Vice President Of Miss Earth she informed me that the sponsor would be removed from all contact with contestants but this did not happen. As other groups experienced the same issue. Myself and @missjaimeyvonne removed ourselves from this uncomfortable environment and sat on the bus away from further exploitation. This is one of many incidents we faced during our Miss Earth Journey! The said sponsor in fact show up at a prelim event and also attended the Coronation night

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“I left to compete at an international pageant in the Philippines about a month ago. I was so excited because I had been to the Philippines before and loved the country and the people; however, the experience with the pageant was not what I had expected,” Vandenberg wrote in an Instagram post on November 7.

“I left Miss Earth because I did not feel safe under their care,” she said, claiming that a sponsor – who she didn’t name – was given her phone number without her permission, and that he called her to ask where she was staying and her room number.

Jaime said that the harassment continued even after she gave her phone to a team manager to deal with the issue.

“He showed up to almost all of my events telling me he could take care of my needs and asked for sexual favours in exchange to get me further in the pageant. I was disgusted,” she said.

Gyles-Brown related a similar experience in an Instagram post.

“I enjoyed 50% of my trip but the other 50% was over shadowed by feeling exploited, vulnerable, unnerved and sexually harassed as I was approached by a sponsor on many occasions who asked for sexual favours in exchange for the Crown,” she said.

According to Gyles-Brown, the incident took place at an event at the Manila Yacht Club, where, according to VandenBerg, the sponsor also “took all of the delegates in my group to his yacht and had some girls take sultry photos.”

Miss Earth Guam Emma Mae Sheedy also just recently came forward, sharing on Instagram her side of her story. 

 

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My side of the Miss Earth International Experience: – After a year and a half of preparation for my first beauty pageant; the Miss Earth pageant, I was excited to travel back to the Philippines for the 6th time. The hospitality of the Filipinos is not found anywhere else. The Philippines is like a second home to me. I joined the pageant to make a difference and be a role model to those around me. I enjoyed a majority of the pageant, but what I did not know, is that a specific sponsor from the Manila Yacht Club would change the way I see pageantry and sponsors. The sponsor who’s name is Amado S. Cruz became a problem for many of the delegates, including myself. To focus on ONLY myself, I was pulled aside multiple times to be invited to Boracay, private islands and into his house and insisted that I and “the latino women dance for him.” Amado S. Cruz grabbed my bare backside at the National Costume Competition where I was able to push him away, but he consistently told me not to tell anyone about any of the instances. At the Manila Yacht Club, Amado S. Cruz ensured that the team managers and security personnel were separated in another room, this is where he made many girls uncomfortable. A groups of us left the room because we felt uncomfortable, but Amado S. Cruz followed us and insisted that we stayed inside to dance with him. We asked our team managers to bring us to the busses, which took over 20 minutes for them finally to do. Later on that night @missjaimeyvonne and @Miss.Earth.England spoke on the phone with Lorraine Schuck, the Vice President of Miss Earth, who assured them that Amado S. Cruz would not be at any other event. From the moment the pageant started until coronation night, Amado S. Cruz was at every event and dinner he could physically get to. Since other delegates have posted, multiple other queens from past years have come out about the same behavior. I want to help put a stop to this sponsor being apart of the Miss Earth International Pageant because he has become a problem for years. #missearth2018 #missearth #MeToo @missearth

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Told to ‘be nice’

The women claimed that when they brought up their concerns with their team managers, they were not taken seriously.

“The team mangers laughed and told us to be nice,” VandenBerg said.

“Eventually we were allowed to go and sit on the bus because we refused to go back to his yacht. Six girls and myself left because we felt unsafe at that event,” she added.

Gyles-Brown said that she was told not to cry because it would ruin her makeup.

“There was no respect or compassion shown to myself or Jamie. I felt traumatized by this experience and had many sleepless nights,” she shared, saying that it was not only her and VandenBerg who were approached, but other delegates too.

Issues unresolved

VandenBerg, Gyles-Brown, and Sheedy said that the issue remained unresolved even after they brought it up their concerns with Lorraine Schuck, one of the heads of Miss Earth organizers Carousel Productions.

“I was told he would not be around any more, but I had advised Lorraine of several other issues that were not resolved,” VandenBerg said.

“[Schuck] informed me that the sponsor would be removed from all contact with contestants but this did not happen,” Gyles-Brown said, claiming that the sponsor showed up at a prelim event and the Coronation Night.

“Later on that night Miss Earth Canada and Miss Earth England spoke on the phone with Lorraine Schuck, the Vice President of Miss Earth, who assured them that Amado S. Cruz would not be at any other event. From the moment the pageant started until coronation night, Amado S. Cruz was at every event and dinner he could physically get to,” Sheedy stated in her post. 

VandenBerg said that when she spoke to another pageant organizer, Peachy Veneracion, she was told that it was important to be friendly to the sponsors.

“She advised me that I shouldn’t put myself in a position where I feel uncomfortable,” Jaime said, claiming that she felt like she couldn’t leave because her passport had been confiscated on the first day.

“When the team managers went into my room and took things from my luggage without my permission, I had completely lost faith in the organization,” she continued.

“I shouldn’t have to face any kind of harassment in order to represent my country,” she said, adding the hashtags “#MeToo,” and “#StillNotAskingForIt” at the end of her post.

Miss Earth rep responds

Lorraine Schuck said in an interview with GMA News that VandenBerg did not bring up any sexual harassment issue.

“She never told us. She came here on the 6th, we found out about it on the 14th. She never told anyone,” Schuck said, adding that there were policewomen around to ensure the candidates’ safety.

Schuck claimed that she wouldn’t allow such incidents to happen, and that if the team managers informed her of what happened, she would have pulled everyone out immediately. 

Cuba representative Monica Aguilar meanwhile said that no report of sexual harassment happened, contrary to what the other ladies said.

“Yes, some sponsors did ask us if we wanted to extend our visas to go to Boracay after the pageant, but no one was promised to get us further in the competition through ‘sexual favors’,” she wrote on Instagram.  – Rappler.com